Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

[Review] The Ivy, Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Remember the hype of swapping Panini football cards or Pokemon cards? You wanted to see what everyone else had, jealous of your friend's stash or gloating over your good fortune. Right now, the Irish food critics are in a foamy frenzy, the likes of which we haven't seen since the great swops of Italia 90. 

What's causing all this noise I hear you say? What is causing food critics to trade photos and experiences, eager to read the next review and revel in the next salacious salty comment? Perhaps the question is more zen. Are you even a food critic if you haven't written a review of The Ivy?
The rather stunning interior, courtesy of @theivydublin

Sunday, July 29, 2018

[Review] Host, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

This review is a love story, a story of a girl and the perfect grilled pork chop. But before we get into the details of how this came about, I need to get something off my chest.

We've all become conscious of the horrendous lives of battery-farmed chicken but we don't yet have the same awareness when it comes to pigs. Pigs are smart, very smart in fact. I've laughed as my father has duelled with Houdini-like pigs, determined to escape their field at all costs and I've cursed when they manage to find, dig up and chew through the solitary water pipe that ran under their large field. I've enjoyed glorious pork, ham, bacon and homemade black pudding from the free-range pigs occasionally raised by my parents, and I wonder why we tolerate treating such a smart animal with such utter disrespect, raising them without sunshine and open air, and slaughtering them to produce discounted €3 packs of bland pork chops. 

Anyway, back to the review and why this porcine diatribe is relevant. Host Restaurant in Ranelagh has been open for nearly a year now and during that time, I've become quite a fan of the approach of co-owners Chloe Kearney and Niall McDermott (also head chef). The style at Host is minimalist, all the way from the bright white exterior with its oh-so-discreet signage right through to the exposed air ducts and open kitchen. It's a small space, but a clever mix of seating options brings a form of texture to the dining room which is bright in daytime and alluringly cosy at nighttime. 
Host restaurant, Ranelagh


Saturday, July 21, 2018

[Review] Mad Egg, Charlotte Way, Dublin 2

Chicken is a meat I rarely order when dining out. It can be bland, dry and just an all-round snoozefest. But there is undoubtedly a place in my heart and my stomach for  classic crispy chicken dishes like chicken Kiev and fried chicken. In fact, there are a lot of fried chicken fans out there, as I learned when listening to an episode of BBC's The Food Programme podcast. And when there are lots of fans, it's always a good idea to take that seriously.

New casual restaurant Mad Egg located on Charlotte Way at the southern end of Camden Street, takes fried chicken very seriously indeed. Since opening several months again, it's been packed all day and evening. I know, I work nearby. I was initially skeptical about opening a restaurant in that location, but hey, what do I know?
Love me Sticky Tenders with chicken salt fries


Saturday, June 23, 2018

[Review] Bento at the Bonsai Bar, Dublin 2

I was recently invited* by Bonsai Bar to come visit and try their new bento box offering. I gladly accepted as I've always liked the creativity and sheer tastiness of Dylan McGrath's food and I was curious to see what twist he would bring to this Japanese staple which is essentially a pre-packed meal. The Bonsai Bar is located in the same building as Rustic Stone and Taste at Rustic, sandwiched between the two on the first floor. I remember reviewing it several years ago when it was called Bar Rustic, prior to its makeover into Bonsai. While the back bar has had a makeover, the overall decor hasn't changed significantly and those lovely black leather chairs that I liked so much first time around are still in use. 

The bento menu concept is available from 4pm - 8pm Wednesday to Saturdays only. There are three varieties on offer, simply called meat, fish and veg, each with 4 dishes and priced at €18 each.  Some of the constituent dishes are available to order separately for €7, so if you really want one particular element, you can enjoy it without ordering the full bento. 
Stitch & Bear - Bento at Bonsai Bar - Roast salmon
Roast salmon with broccoli and sesame


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

[Travel] A weekend in the Priorat

Last August, I found myself standing on top of a hill in the Priorat, surrounded by vines laden heavy with grapes, under the intense searingly dry heat of the late summer sun. The vineyards were enjoying the quiet time that comes before the hustle and bustle of the harvest. It was a pretty intense moment, where I really felt connected to the land, to the vines and to the magnificent wines of the region. 

Stitch & Bear - The Priorat - Torres Priorat winery
The Torres Priorat winery at El Lloar

Saturday, April 14, 2018

[Review] Ristorante Romano, Capel Street, Dublin 1

A few months ago, I saw an article from Tom Doorley that caught my interest. It featured Ristorante Romano, an old school Italian restaurant on Dublin's Capel Street, a restaurant that I had passed by many times without ever taking any real notice. I trust Tom's opinion, and when he uses words like   "brilliant" and "best pasta", you pay attention.  so I made a mental note to visit whenever I was next in the vicinity.

I'm not going to beat about the bush when it comes to the interior. It's basic and it definitely hasn't seen any hipster influence. Owner Romano Morelli is a cycling lover and there's a bicycle frame hanging in the dining room, along with various cycling-themed photos. But that's as eccentric as it gets. Even the menus are simple laminated cards that show the wear and tear of having passed through many hands. 

But as you read the menu, you will find your eyebrows rising slightly. Prices are very definitely in the affordable range, and as far as I can see, the a la carte prices haven't changed since at least 2011. It gets even better in the wine section, where the most expensive bottle, a Chianti Classico, clocks in at a not-so-hefty €23, with most bottles listed at €18. A 500ml carafe of red or white house wine will set you back a mere €10. 
Stitch & Bear - Ristorante Romano - Bruschetta


Sunday, March 18, 2018

[Review] Glovers Alley, Dublin 2

By the end of last year, I had heard whisperings of a new restaurant opening in the Fitzwilliam Hotel. It was going to aim high, and was recruiting staff from the best spots in town. That restaurant is now open, and there's no doubt that the uber luxurious Glovers Alley by Andy McFadden is currently the hottest ticket in town. 

Originally from Tallaght, McFadden became London's youngest Michelin-starred chef, before deciding last year to return home and invest in the space formerly occupied by Thorntons Restaurant. While McFadden's name is the name over the door and embossed on the menus, he's assembled a crack team around him. Head chef Philip Roe has accompanied Andy from London, head sommelier James Brooke moved across the Green from Restaurant Patrick Guildbaud, general manager Ed Jolliffe comes from Chapter One and the stellar Aoife Noonan joined as executive pastry chef, formerly having worked at Luna and Guildbaud.


Sunday, February 25, 2018

[Review] Bresson, Monkstown, Co Dublin

There's a growing appetite for high quality restaurants in the suburbs. After all, who wants the hassle of travelling into town for dinner or lunch after a week of commuting to work? You need only think of Craft in Harold's Cross, Ember in Milltown or Michaels in Mount Merrion to see examples of successful restaurants, located right in the heart of their communities.

Chef Temple Garner, formerly of Town Bar & Grill and San Lorenzo's has joined up with Conor Kavanagh of The Old Spot to open French restaurant Bresson in Monkstown, located just a few minutes walk from the DART station. Bresson occupies the premises formerly filled by Seapoint, but whereas Seapoint was white and seaside-y, Bresson is all Paris-bistro with lashings of dark wood, dark leather and lots of Art Deco-esque French posters. Entrance to the restaurant is via a very tempting outdoor dining area, perfect for a glass of wine and lunch on warmer days.
Stitch & Bear - Bresson - Interior at Bresson
Bresson on Monkstown Crescent

Sunday, February 4, 2018

[Review] Fuel...Fit Food, Clontarf, Dublin 3

This morning, I woke up feeling foggy and not rested. When I feel that way, one of my favourite cures is a brisk walk in the fresh air to flush out the cobwebs. Usually I head towards Sandymount or one of the around the southside of the city. Today however, I wanted to take a look at the ongoing renovations at Clontarf Baths, so we headed north. 

45 minutes walking later, I was feeling much better. Looking around Vernon Avenue, we spotted the very small and cute Fuel...Fit Food. The best word to describe the interior is compact, with many small tables neatly tucked in. The focus here is clearly on healthy tasty food, with a young clientele who appear to like their coffees flat and white. 
Stitch & Bear - Fuel...Fit Food - Mexican eggs
Mexican eggs

Monday, January 29, 2018

[Review] 3 Leaves, Blackrock Market, Blackrock, Co Dublin

It's a bitterly cold January lunchtime as we enter Blackrock Market. Wind is funnelled by the crowded aisles and as we pass the shuttered doors of Michelin-starred Heron & Grey, I find myself wishing for somewhere warm and cosy. Going for lunch after my yoga class, while still in my yoga leggings, doesn't seem like a good idea anymore. 

We are here in search of 3 Leaves, a small Indian restaurant from chef Santosh Thomas and his wife Milie who came to Ireland over 10 years ago. The buzz about this little spot has been quietly growing, and last year Thomas scooped the Best Indian Chef in Dublin gong at the Irish Curry Awards. Not bad for a small little spot in a market!

Stitch & Bear - 3 Leaves - Gulabi chicken curry
Gulabi chicken curry

Sunday, January 21, 2018

[Blog] Most popular reviews of 2017

I always find it extremely interesting to load up Google Analytics, and analyse my blog statistics. I particularly like to do it at the end of every year with the specific objective of understanding what reviews were most interesting to my readers. Thankfully this year, your preferred spots coincided largely with with my favourite venues from 2017. So without further ado, here are 5 most popular restaurant reviews from 2017, plus one wildcard from yours truly.

In 2007, TV chef and Ballymaloe family member, Rachel Allen opened her eponymous restaurant and cocktail bar on Cork's Washington Street. Within a few months, Rachel's had garnered a selection of mixed reviews with an overall consensus that Cork had gained a smart new restaurant, with a strong focus on using local produce.

Stitch & Bear - 2017 most popular - Lamb at Rachel's Cork
Rack of spring lamb with wild garlic and almond crumb


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

[Review] Ali's Kitchen, Rory Gallagher Place, Cork

As a student in Cork City, I spent many afternoons browsing the bookshelves of Connolly's bookshop on Rory Gallagher Place. I couldn't, and still can't, get enough books in my life. When I learned than Alan Connolly had retired and closed his bookshop, I was disappointed to see a little of the old fabric of Cork disappearing.  

I need not have worried however, as the opening of Ali's Kitchen in this beautiful old building has given Cork a vibrant cafe and bakehouse which has quickly developed a reputation as the place for brunch and baked goods in the city. Even browsing their Instagram feed induces salivation. 
Stitch & Bear - Ali's Kitchen - Coffee
Coffee at Ali's Kitchen

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